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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Perfect Nanny


Leïla Slimani's second book was a huge publishing success in Europe where it sold 600,000 copies in its first year and won the prestigious Prix Goncourt literary award.  It opens with the disturbing words "The baby is dead."
Myriam and Paul live in Paris with their two young children. Myriam is a lawyer who has taken time off from her career to care for the children but when a perfect job offer falls into her lap she decides to return to work. She and Paul search for a nanny and interview several candidates. Most are unsuitable but Louise comes highly recommended by her previous employer. Myriam initially has some misgivings about leaving her babies with a virtual stranger but Louise proves to be adept at caring for the children and at organizing and running the household. As the nanny takes on more responsibility Myriam and Paul become more dependent upon her. Over time some tensions arise but the children adore Louise and a little friction is not unusual in this type of employer-employee relationship.

We know from the start that the two children were brutally murdered. We want to know why and look for clues. Over time we learn that the perfect nanny has not had a perfect life. Her relationships with her own family were troubled and she is now estranged from her daughter and in debt. I felt like I was watching the plot unfold from a distance, almost as if I were a neighbour who knew the family well enough to exchange pleasantries but little beyond that. Then the story ends abruptly with a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions. We are left to speculate about what drove Louise to commit such a horrifying act against the two innocent children who were left in her care. It was a gripping psychological study and I recommend it to those who don't require the loose ends to be tied up in a neat bow at the end.

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